by David Almond


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David Almond’s Printz Honor–winning novel celebrates its 10th anniversary!

Ten-year-old Michael was looking forward to moving into a new house. But now his baby sister is ill, his parents are frantic, and Doctor Death has come to call. Michael feels helpless. Then he steps into the crumbling garage. . . . What is this thing beneath the spiders' webs and dead flies? A human being, or a strange kind of beast never before seen? The only person Michael can confide in is his new friend, Mina. Together, they carry the creature out into the light, and Michael's world changes forever. . . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440416029
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 09/28/2000
Series: Skellig
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 66,129
Product dimensions: 5.19(w) x 7.63(h) x 0.51(d)
Lexile: 490L (what's this?)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

“I grew up in a big extended Catholic family [in the north of England]. I listened to the stories and songs at family parties. I listened to the gossip that filled Dragone’s coffee shop. I ran with my friends through the open spaces and the narrow lanes. We scared each other with ghost stories told in fragile tents on dark nights. We promised never-ending friendship and whispered of the amazing journeys we’d take together.

“I sat with my grandfather in his allotment, held tiny Easter chicks in my hands while he smoked his pipe and the factory sirens wailed and larks yelled high above. I trembled at the images presented to us in church, at the awful threats and glorious promises made by black-clad priests with Irish voices. I scribbled stories and stitched them into little books. I disliked school and loved the library, a little square building in which I dreamed that books with my name on them would stand one day on the shelves.

Skellig, my first children’s novel, came out of the blue, as if it had been waiting a long time to be told. It seemed to write itself. It took six months, was rapidly taken by Hodder Children’s Books and has changed my life. By the time Skellig came out, I’d written my next children’s novel, Kit’s Wilderness. These books are suffused with the landscape and spirit of my own childhood. By looking back into the past, by re-imagining it and blending it with what I see around me now, I found a way to move forward and to become something that I am intensely happy to be: a writer for children.”

David Almond is the winner of the 2001 Michael L. Printz Award for Kit’s Wilderness, which has also been named best book of the year by School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly. He has been called "the foremost practitioner in children's literature of magical realism." (Booklist) His first book for young readers, Skellig, is a Printz Honor winner. David Almond lives with his family in Newcastle, England.

Read an Excerpt

I found him in the garage on a Sunday afternoon. It was the day after we moved into Falconer Road. The winter was ending. Mum had said we'd be moving just in time for the spring. Nobody else was there. Just me. The others were inside the house with Dr. Death, worrying about the baby.

He was lying there in the darkness behind the tea chests, in the dust and dirt. It was as if he'd been there forever. He was filthy and pale and dried out and I thought he was dead. I couldn't have been more wrong. I'd soon begin to see the truth about him, that there'd never been another creature like him in the world.

We called it the garage because that's what the real estate agent, Mr. Stone, called it. It was more like a demolition site or a rubbish dump or like one of those ancient warehouses they keep pulling down at the wharf. Stone led us down the garden, tugged the door open, and shined his little flashlight into the gloom. We shoved our heads in at the doorway with him.

"You have to see it with your mind's eye," he said. "See it cleaned, with new doors and the roof repaired. See it as a wonderful two-car garage."

He looked at me with a stupid grin on his face.

"Or something for you, lad-a hideaway for you and your pals. What about that, eh?"

I looked away. I didn't want anything to do with him. All the way round the house it had been the same. Just see it in your mind's eye. Just imagine what could be done. All the way round I kept thinking of the old man, Ernie Myers, that had lived here on his own for years. He'd been dead nearly a week before they found him under the table in the kitchen. That's what I saw when Stone told us about seeing with the mind's eye. He even said it when we got to the dining room and there was an old cracked toilet sitting there in the comer behind a plywood screen. I just wanted him to shut up, but he whispered that toward the end Ernie couldn't manage the stairs. His bed was brought in here and a toilet was put in so everything was easy for him. Stone looked at me like he didn't think I should know about such things. I wanted to get out, to get back to our old house again, but Mum and Dad took it all in. They went on like it was going to be some big adventure. They bought the house. They started cleaning it and scrubbing it and painting it. Then the baby came too early. And here we were.

Chapter 2

I NEARLY GOT INTO THE GARAGE that Sunday morning. I took my own flashlight and shined it in. The outside doors to the back lane must have fallen off years ago and there were dozens of massive planks nailed across the entrance. The timbers holding the roof were rotten and the roof was sagging in. The bits of the floor you could see between the rubbish were full of cracks and holes. The people that took the rubbish out of the house were supposed to take it out of the garage as well, but they took one look at the place and said they wouldn't go in it even for extra money. There were old chests of drawers and broken washbasins and bags of cement, ancient doors leaning against the walls, deck chairs with the cloth seats rotted away. Great rolls of rope and cable hung from nails. Heaps of water pipes and great boxes of rusty nails were scattered on the floor. Everything was covered in dust and spiders' webs. There was mortar that had fallen from the walls. 'There was a little window in one of the walls but it was filthy and there were rolls of cracked linoleum standing in front of it. The place stank of rot and dust. Even the bricks were crumbling like they couldn't bear the weight anymore. It was like the whole thing was sick of itself and would collapse in a heap and have to get bulldozed away.

I heard something scratching in one of the corners, and something scuttling about; then it all stopped and it was just dead quiet in there.

I stood daring myself to go in.

I was just going to slip inside when I heard Mum shouting at me

"Michael! What you doing?"
She was at the back door.
"Didn't we tell you to wait till we're sure it's

I stepped back and looked at her.
"Well, didn't we?" she shouted.
"Yes," I said.
"So keep out! All right?"
I shoved the door and it lurched half shut on its single hinge.
"All right?" she yelled.
',All right,” said. "Yes. All right. All right."
"Do you not think we've got more to worry about than stupid you getting crushed in a stupid garage?

"You just keep out, then! Right?"
"Right. Right, right, right.
Then I went back into the wilderness we called garden and she went back to the stupid baby.

What People are Saying About This

Oprah Winfrey

It's the best children's book I have read recently.

Reading Group Guide

Note from the Author

I grew up in a big family in a small, steep town overlooking the River Tyne, in England.
It was a place of ancient coal mines, dark terraced streets, strange shops, new real estate development, and wild heather hills. Our lives were filled with mysterious and unexpected events, and the place and its people have given me many of my stories. I always wanted to be a writer, though I told very few people until I was "grown-up." Writing can be difficult, but sometimes it really does feel like a kind of magic.

I think stories are living things—among the most important things in the world

1. Michael is very unhappy at the beginning of the novel. Discuss how Michael's life changes after he discovers Skellig and meets Mina. Think about ways that you deal with fear and loneliness. How can you help a friend who appears unhappy?

2. Almond never gives the reader a specific description of Skellig. Based on the glimpses of Skellig found throughout the novel, what is your impression of Skellig? How might Michael describe Skellig at the end of the novel?

3. Michael brushes his hands against Skellig's back and detects what appear to be wings. When he asks his mother about shoulder blades, she answers, "They say that shoulder blades are where your wings were when you were an angel . . . where your wings will grow again one day." What does this statement reveal about Skellig?

4. When Michael questions why Skellig eats living things and makes pellets like an owl, Mina answers, "We can't know. Sometimes we just have to accept that there are things we can't know." Why is this an important moment in the novel?

5. When Michael's soccer teammates discover his friendship with Mina, they begin teasing him. How does this affect Michael's relationship with them? Why do you think they make fun of Mina? How does she handle the teasing? How would you handle the situation if your classmates made fun of a special friend?

6. Discuss Michael's relationship with his mother and father. How does the baby's illness put a strain on these relationships? How is Michael's relationship with his parents different from Mina's relationship with her mother?

7. At the same time that his sister is undergoing heart surgery, Michael discovers that Skellig is gone. Mina calms Michael by quoting William Blake: "[Blake] said the soul was able to leap out of the body for a while and then leap back again. He said it could be caused by great fear or enormous pain. Sometimes it was because of too much joy. It was possible to be overwhelmed by the presence of so much beauty in the world." Why do you think Mina quoted this passage to Michael? How are fear and pain related? How are joy and beauty related? How does Skellig represent all these qualities?

8. What does the nurse mean when she describes Michael's baby sister as having a "heart of fire"? Why does Michael want to name the baby Persephone? Why is Joy an appropriate name for her? What other names might symbolize her journey and her place in the world?

9. Skellig returns for one last visit with Michael and Mina. What do you think is Skellig's purpose for entering Michael's life? How does he touch other lives? Do you think he'll ever return?

Customer Reviews

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Skellig 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 96 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing! It was very edge of your seat and perfect for all ages. I would definatly reccomend this book. The plot is very interesting and descriptive.....READ THIS BOOK!!!!!
Jenna Barrick More than 1 year ago
This book is one of my favorites! It has a good puller and a great setting. This book is amazing! I recommend it to children and teenagers
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For some reason, i was reluctant to read this book, however i found it stunning. As a reader who nearly never cries, this book truely struck me in its ingenuity and heart felt message. This is an excellent read for all ages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this was about the best book i have ever read! The realistic beginning of the book and then in the middle you find out a fantasy part of it! It was very interesting and I think everyone should read it!
Patito_de_Hule More than 1 year ago
Soon after Michael's family moves to a new home, his sister is born prematurely. While his parents are ferrying the newborn back and forth to the hospital, Michael deals with his stress by exploring their dilapidated garage. There, he finds a strange owl-like man. As Michael and the girl-next-door nurse the winged man back to health, he learns a lesson about love. This was a sweet little book. It was quite short, so there wasn't a lot of plot, but the characters and premise was quite adorable. This book would be appropriate for 7-9 year olds who enjoy reading magical realism.  Almond did a fantastic job of narrating his own book. He has an engaging reading voice and had all the rhythms and intonations flowing well.
LauraIrrgang More than 1 year ago
This lovely, pitch-perfect book proves that middle grade fiction can be spare and simple, yet still shine. Young Michael tries to cope with his infant sister's life threatening illness while living an ordinary boy's life. He plays soccer, visits with pals from school, and helps his father fixing up their new home and garden. Michael discovers a mysterious stranger in the dilapidated shed with odd manners. Is he a monster, angel, or something else? Michael befriends Mina, who is home schooled and has a penchant for William Blake's poetry and an obsession with flying creatures. They embark upon a quiet journey and a moving friendship. Together, they attempt to piece together the enigma of the man in the shed. The beauty of this quiet story lies in the friendship between Mina and Michael, and the author's insistence on leaving some things unanswered. I wish more books for this age group were so lyrical and calm. David Almond's book is a master work in restraint. I particularly like Michael's interactions with Mina and her mother. This friendship seems so true, and although I wish I could know more of these characters, the story is a perfect length and I was so satisfied with the resolution. This is a Printz Honor selection. Almond addresses weighty issues like life, death, and the inevitable unknowable in between on a level that is just right for this age group. I am so impressed with Almond's grasp of the complexities of Michael and Mina's world. He truly understands that although the world of a child is, on some level, simple-they are far from simplistic creatures. Instead, children have a rich inner emotional life and high levels of creativity, sensitivity, and wonder inside them. This book shows such respect for the characters and audience, and I would highly recommend this to any middle grade reader.
karenestockton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
3P"What is he?" I said."We can't know. Sometimes we just have to accept there are thing we can't know. Why is your sister ill? Why did my father die?" She held my hand. "Sometimes we think we should be able to know everything, But we can't. We have to allow ourselves to see what there is to see, and we have to imagine." (p. 140)
drakescott on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A superb, lyrical prose poem of a book, SKELLIG is a stunning young adult debut for David Almond, who effortlesslessly weaves a magical, moving spell from page one. SKELLIG tells the story of ten-year-old Michael, a troubled boy whose family has moved to a new house in the wake of his newborn sister's grave illness. When he discovers a strange creature named Skellig huddled in the delapidated garage, Michael and his precocious friend, Mina, find their perceptions altered in extraordinary ways. Is Skellig an angel? A bird? A man?This marvelous work is all about the things that are really important: love, family, imagination, and the idea that, perhaps, none of the events that shape our lives are by chance.
savageknight on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderfully "simple" yet extremely multi-layered tale. Told in the manner of a young child's story, there is a "deep" feeling of so much more going on than simply who or what 'Skellig' is. Taking a look at the world through the eyes of Michael and seeing how it changes based on his experiences with his new neighbor Mina, Skellig, and especially with what is happening to his new baby sister, the reader very easily and quickly gets wrapped up in basically praying for a miracle.I really enjoyed this book. Easy to read, but haunting and filled with hope.
beserene on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This children's novel was recommended to me by a fellow LTer. I found it to be intense and moving. It's not exactly what one expects -- there are shades of Gabriel Garcia Marquez here, as some of the books detail echoes "The Very Old Man With Enormous Wings", a short story I have taught a few times -- but is never the less a great experience.The book centers on two kids, one of whom is experiencing serious life-chaos, with a new home that's not quite in good shape and a new baby sister who is seriously ill. The children encounter Skellig, who is a being of strange and wondrous nature. I don't wish to give away too many details about Skellig, because part of the joy of the book is imagining for yourself who or what he really is, but Almond manages to evoke a multi-faceted significance within this one figure that is both mysterious and tangibly satisfying for the reader.The story is really about coping, which the reader discovers as the plot progresses through the stressful happenings of a young boy's life. It's also about relationships, and some of the most poignant moments in the story are also the most real -- interactions between father and son, between mother and baby, and between the children themselves, never stray into the saccharine or the implausible, even when the surrounding events become surreal or even magical.Overall, I found this to be a beautiful, emotional book, one that will appeal most to those (children and adults) who have found themselves on the brink of family tragedy or who are perhaps struggling to cope with a current situation. I think this is a book that speaks to our core and would strongly recommend it as a together-read, something for a parent and child to discuss with each other.
hemlockclock on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An amazing story with the fantasy aspect so subtle you practically expect to find a bird man in any attic or shed. I found I could relate my younger self to the character's easily.
sirfurboy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
David Almond is one of those authors who is called a children's author, but whose writing is really timeless. Not everyone will love Skellig. It is not full of action and adventure. Instead it is more of a mystery around the nature of the curious character living in a shed, called Skellig - and the stresses placed upon a family when a new baby is born with a life threatening heart defect.But this is a beautiful book, written simply, yet with hidden depths. There is a little humour, and lots of keen observations on life, but ultimately a story of friendship, hope and just a little magic.Highly recommended - unless you only like action adventures!
lalalibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was beautiful and mysterious. I couldn't put it down.
maureencpl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first of David Almond's books that I've read, Skellig was mesmerizing even when I couldn't get a handle on the creature or the story. With each read I have a different reaction, but all are deeply satisfying. This book works for me on some unconscious layer.
Whisper1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After reading Almond's Kit's Wilderness, I was interested in finding some of his other YA books. I'm glad I did!Michael is a ten year old boy whose life is confused and troubled when his family moves to a run down, ramshackled house. Both the house and the family are in dire need of repair as we learn that a tiny, newborn baby sister is gravely ill.I liked the way Almond portrayed Michael's emotions in relation to the sibling who at first elicited jealously and then a transformative metamorphosis occurred when David began to want the best for the struggling infant.While stumbling around in broken down garage, Michael discovers a sickly creature-like man named Skellig. Michael is drawn outside of his own troubles when he altruistically assists Skellig.When showing his new-found friend Mina his discovery, they both embark on a magical journey of caring as they reach out to Skellng by providing food and shelter.This book is mythological regarding the deep emotions set in place when David is forever changed by helping and caring for and about others.I rate this five stars for the magical portrayal of the adage "in helping others we are indeed helped."Skellig is a wonderful book to read during the holiday season when we are reminded of the power and beauty of love.This is a story of things and people who are broken down and in need of fixing.This is a story of people who find redemption in the power of love.
StephanieWA on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a very thought-provoking novel which will have readers thinking about the plot long after they've finished reading it. It is haunting, and the characters are well defined people with whom the readers will easily identify. Readers will also enjoy trying to figure out who Skellig is Almond creates intrigue as to why he is there and whether he is good or not.
Eurekas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I would not recommend this book for everyone. It takes a mature and poetic nature coupled with an appreciation for the bizarre. It's quirky without being humorous, tender and very human without being sentimental. If Henry James and William Blake co-authored a book this might be something like.
asomers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book baffled me. There must be something that I'm not getting, because I don't see how it was worthy of a Printz Honor award. There must be some metaphor or allegory that I am missing. The mysterious character of Skellig never really draws me in. I don;t understand the significance of the dance. I know that William Blake's work is referenced in quite frequently in the story/ Maybe that's the missing puzzle piece as I'm not familiar with Blake.
vtlucania on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Skellig is a book about believing in the unusual. most adults will probably question amny events in the book and want more details but adults tend ot forget children have imagination and the power to believe in supernatural. Skellig is described as having features of many beings so what he is is unclear btu what is clear is the fact Skellig brings significance to the lfie of Michael and Mina. in the end, I would say this book is about kindness ant the act of kindness not for gain but because it is the right thing.
porch_reader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This beautifully-written book tells the story of Michael, a boy who tries to continue with his daily life of going to school and playing futbol while becoming increasingly worried about his sick baby sister. Two characters help David through this difficult time. Mina, a home-schooled girl who lives next door, introduces Michael to William Blake and to her own thoughtful way of viewing the world. While Mina is a bit mysterious to Michael, as all girls are to boys of this age, Skellig goes beyond mysterious to defy easy description. We learn more about Skellig along with Michael and Mina as his role in their lives becomes clearer. This is a book about possibilities and miracles, about the role of friendships in getting us through tough times. It is tenderly written. The audio that I listened to is read by the author and is extremely well done.
horomnizon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Read this after seeing about the prequel "My Name is Mina" and becoming intrigued. Obviously, as a kid's book, it was a pretty quick read and I really enjoyed it. As Michael adjusts to his new house and the fear that his baby sister might not live, he meets a strange neighbor girl named Mina. She loves William Blake and doesn't attend school - she learns from the world around her and believes school is for fools. Michael struggles as he decides whether her friendship is worth losing his old school friends....but she understands his fear surrounding his baby sister. Michael discovers a man - or something like a man - living in an old garage on their new property that is about to either fall down or be torn down. With Mina's help, they move him elsewhere and wonder at what he is. It's left open for the reader to decide what Skellig is....even what Mina is, perhaps. There's lots of talk about evolution, but there is also prayer. It's an interesting dichotomy, particularly where Skellig is concerned. I think this is a book that could spur lots of discussion and might best be read by parents along with their kids.
dk_phoenix on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked this one up on the recommendation of others, but I wasn't really expecting anything from it. It didn't "look" very good, and usually I get a pretty good sense from a book when I'm holding it whether I'll like it or not (I jokingly call it my 'book sixth sense'... okay, now you all think I'm crazy), and this one didn't really seem like my kind of thing...Was I ever wrong. I don't want to get into plot details because I really think this is a book you need to experience for yourself, but let me say this: when you turn the last page of the book, after the last word has been read, make sure you give yourself a few moments. Allow the sense of the book, the words and the sentiments evoked to wash over you. Absorb the truth behind the fantastic. I finished this book in a coffee shop and had brought along an action-oriented chick lit book to read afterward, but I simply couldn't do it - I didn't want to tarnish what I'd just read.Needless to say, I'm very, very glad I gave this one a try.
krau0098 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was recommended to me because I like "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman. This book was very much in a similar writing style Gaiman's work. The story telling in this book is superb. The book itself is a short but sweet story.Michael and his family have just moved into a new home. Unfortunately Michael's baby sister was born way too early and she is very sick. Micheal is struggling with his parents' lack of attention as they try to deal with saving his little sister's life; when he stumbles into the shed in their backyard to find a parched, old crusty man alive in the back corner. The old man calls himself a Skellig; exactly what is a Skellig?I thought this book was excellent. The story telling was top notch. The characterization was wonderful; I thought Michael's character was well done and even the parents were well characterized. This is a very short book but is a great littlenovella . The plot moved quickly and was full of mystery and suspense. It was interesting that the story ties in with deeper aspects of life; like dreams and spirituality. Some parts were a bit of tear jerker as Micheal's baby sister fights for her life, but the Skellig was a truly intriguing character.Almond's writing is detailed and brings both the characters and surroundings alive; he manages to add a sort of thought-provokingvagueness to aspects of the story while brushing against some things that humanity struggles with as a whole. I was surprised at how deep and well told this little story was. It's a book that I am keeping on my shelf and it made me want to read many more of David Almond's books. He seems to be a very creative and adept storyteller.
katekf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A thoughtful and slightly spiritual book that follows Michael as he moves to a new house and along with his parents copes with his premature baby sister who seems to be constantly near death. One of the things he discovers in the new house is a strange winged man who is something between a man and a bird. Michael and his new friend, Mina, who is home schooled try to help this man called Skellig and throughout it learn to look at the world in new ways. This book is recommended for ages nine to twelve and is quite appropriate but could also be read by a slightly older reader who is trying to deal with grief and the confusion that comes about when a child is so close to death. The only issue with this book is that there is a rather heavy Christian spirituality angle that is brought through the poetry of William Blake that Mina loves and also the words of Skellig, the winged man. This is an aspect that could be the beginning of many discussions of how we see creation in the beauty of nature and what are different thoughts about what happens after death. Overall this is a powerful and simple novel that does a good job of dealing with the fragility of life.
Chloebats on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
P3.5Before she went away, I held the baby for a while. I touched her skin and her tiny soft bones. I felt the place where her wings had been. Then we went in the car to the hospital. --Pg. 39